Presentation by Valorie N. Salimpoor
Music, Emotions, and Pleasure: Evidence for Dopamine Release in the Brain
Abstract: Music is merely a sequence of tones. Yet, music listening has been described as one of the most intensely pleasurable human experiences, causing states of craving and euphoria. In a series of experiments, we examined (1) a systematic relationship between emotional arousal and pleasure in response to music using psychophysiological techniques, (2) dopamine release in the mesolimbic reward circuitry during music listening using the neurochemical specificity of ligand-based PET scanning, and (3) the temporal dynamics of anticipation and experience of peak emotional responses (“chills”) using fMRI. Next, we remove the effects of explicit memories related to music by examining how a piece of music is initially considered rewarding in the brain the first time that it is heard. We discuss the implications of the findings in the context of how the brain processes non-tangible aesthetic rewards, as well as the benefits of using music as a tool to better understand the reward/reinforcement literature.
Bio: Valorie Salimpoor is a senior Ph.D. student at McGill University and Montreal Neurological Institute working with Dr. Robert Zatorre. She obtained her B.Sc. degree from the University of Toronto in Psychology and Neuroscience, and M.A. degree in Clinical Psychology at York University, followed by a year of training at the Stanford Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience Laboratory. Her interests include frontal lobe function and fronto-striatal connectivity and how this relates to music, emotion, and reward processing. Her current projects involve the neuroeconomics of music purchasing decisions and the involvement of the dopamine reinforcement circuit.